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>A glass of the '98 Organic Soy (Two Sugars, No Anchovies)

Lach Ryan

Winter in Melbourne draws us into food frenzy like a bulimic before a purge. When it comes to cafes and restaurants we are spoilt for choices, and blessed with high standards. We are just as passionate about what we match our food with, and I’m not talking Egyptian silk neckerchiefs, but rather coffee and wine. Perhaps it’s our multicultural society, European city vibe or the fact that, inside, we are all just a little bit food-wanky. Who doesn’t like over pronouncing their soy macchiato or rolling the vowels of the pasta sauce special like a flamboyant Spaniard with a stutter? Melbourne is also Australia’s cultural capital, specialising in art and coffee. In fact we are so good at it, that we have combined both into one- latte art. A friend of mine was so avant garde that his erotic nude of two cows frolicking in a cappuccino got him fired!

Your ‘local’ these days is more likely to be a café or restaurant, than a pub or a blacksmith’s, like in the old days. Sure there are those new ‘gastropubs’, but they sound more like a medical acronym for a disease caught from sharing pineapples with fish tank cleaners, than a place to eat and drink. My favourite is Mexican. I also like their food. My ‘local’ is a Mexican place, actually run by Mexicans as opposed to Scots. I don’t like Scots. The people, not the name. The last time I ate there, I learnt the difference between a tortia and a tortilla. Apparently a tortia is a tortilla that is baked in the oven to remove the letter L’s. A guy then comes every Tuesday to clean the oven and remove said L’s, which are later sold to Wheel of Fortune and wealthy Russian businessmen.

Food and wine is a bit like that- the more you consume it the more you want to know about it. Thankfully we have guides and friends to help us out. When eating out as a group, help is always required by a certain few to translate the menu. Usually its the fault of some pompous establishment trying to justify the $17.90 for the scrambled eggs on toast, or as they appear on the menu ‘scattered soufflé of distilled hen embryo, served on a warm moist bed of yeast and wheat.’

At the high end of the eating out game most players get intimidated, due largely to the personal loan that is required to eat at these places. Thankfully, food guides and the experts or ‘foodies’ (pronounced PH-AT-TEE) that write them are here to help. These are excellent publications full of critical acclaim from people who are acclaimed at being critical. A good food guide can be the difference between you left hungry enough to eat a horse, and you actually eating horse!

Nothing has turned a generation in food loving prats more than the shaggy haired, J-named prophet with some crazy ideas about food love, herb use and an ability to feed the masses. I am of course talking about Jamie Oliver, the vespa riding vinaigrette vigilante. You’ve got to love him! (Actually you don’t, except in Essex, UK where it, along with compulsory purple neckerchiefs on cats, is a council by-law) Jamie taught me from the age of 17 to rebel against the social pressures of eating out. Now I can stay home with nothing but celery, cream and two sardines and make a 4 course banquet. Alternatively I could head out to one of Melbourne’s 6 Celery Creamed Sardines restaurants and eat there!